Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov was born on October 15, 1814, in Moscow, to an impoverished member of the petty nobility, Yury Petrovich Lermontov, and a wealthy but sickly mother, Mariya Arsenieva, the only daughter of a member of the illustrious Stolypin family. Lermontov’s mother died in 1817, and his maternal grandmother, who hated her son-in-law, claimed custody of her grandson, assuming responsibility for his education and future career. While Lermontov was a child, his father left his son with the boy’s grandmother and seldom met with him again before his death in 1831. Lermontov seems to have spent a happy childhood with his grandmother and cousins, especially Shan-Girei, at his grandmother’s estate at Tarkhany. Twice they visited the Caucasus because of young Mikhail Yurievich’s ailing health, an awesome experience later reflected in his verse and prose.
Lermontov was educated at Tarkhany by private tutors and showed a special aptitude for music, evident in the lyric quality of his verse, and for languages, in which he read widely. Foreign authors greatly influenced his writings, especially Shakespeare, Schiller, George Gordon, Lord Byron, and Molière. Lermontov began early to manifest a weakness for the affairs of the heart, and unhappy love affairs were to characterize his short life. His first serious involvement came in 1830 with Ekaterina Aleksandrovna Sushkova, who rejected him and, like Onegin and Tatyana, was herself to be rejected by him later. A rather mysterious young woman,...
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